Finding the right level of competition

Club tryouts can a hectic experience as you and your child try to develop a strategy to make it around to several clubs who all, coincidentally, happen to have the same try out time window. Here are some questions to help you determine which clubs to target based on the kind of club season you want to be a part of based on your existing commitments.

Does this club have the right level of play for my child?

The answer to this question really depends on why your child is playing club. There are so many different levels of “club volleyball.” Some clubs are very competitive; they play to win and every girl on the team is going to play somewhere. For some teams, every girl is going to a NCAA Division 1 school. For other clubs, they offer development teams for multi-sport athletes or players that need to play in order to continue to play in high school. Here’s a more specific breakdown:

Local: These clubs are developmental, playing clubs from all over the region. This type of club is great for starting out, will usually cost less and require no travel. The play is technically at the “club” level. Games will typically be on Saturdays only.

Regional: This level of play requires more commitment. They are more competitive and play clubs from all over the region. Typically, these clubs travel mostly in-state or within a few hours of home at either the club or open (higher) level. Tournaments may be just Saturdays or Saturdays and Sundays.

National: The most competitive level, teams play clubs from all over the region, state and nation. These clubs will most likely travel to at least two out-of-town or out-of-state national ranking tournaments. Tournaments will almost always be on Saturdays and Sundays, with ranking tournaments lasting three days.

What are the club’s age divisions?

Every club is slightly different, so when choosing a club, look carefully. Large clubs will have a variety of ages from 11s-18s, but smaller clubs mainly focus on a few age groups, typically 13s-17s.

Ask yourself, and your athlete: What is your “why” behind playing club volleyball?

If your athlete is young and is just starting out, deciding if they even like volleyball then:

Rec ball or a developmental team can be a great place to start. Everyone has to start somewhere. If you are not looking for competitive play and don’t want to spend much money, start here. As we mentioned, there are also Friday and Sunday developmental leagues and summer programs offered by many of the competitive clubs. These are specifically geared toward athletes just getting into the sport and offer less commitment and less stress. Many of these rec ball and developmental teams will be coached by parents or student athletes who may or may not have much coaching or volleyball experience.

If your athlete is young, athletic and has a more “intense, motivated” attitude when it comes to time commitment and your budget allows, the taking a look at more competitive teams or programs is something to consider. Look for the words “regional” and “national” when referring to teams offered. These programs are typically staffed by professional coaches (played or currently play at collegiate or professional levels, coach middle or high school or coach college), although sometimes parents coach.

If your athlete is in a big school district with a large amount of competition vying for just a few spots on the high school teams and your athlete is looking to club to gain an edge, then you may want to consider playing for a competitive team at the regional or national level. Extra play time and touches help give your athlete an advantage at school. National travel is not necessary; it really comes down to coaching, practice time and “more touches” to enhance ball control, skill level and strategy.

If your athlete knows they want to go to college to play ball, then you will want to put your athlete in most competitive program with the best coaching and teams you can find. There is so much more to college recruiting, so check out our blog for more details on this.

When considering levels of play appropriate for your athlete, one aspect to consider is position:

Go into pre-tryouts, tryouts and information sessions with your athlete’s position in mind. *However* we have found many clubs see hidden potential and talent in your athlete and may move them into a different position. This is a good thing!! The benefits of learning a new position than they may play at school helps them mature into a better, more versatile player. Sometimes getting away from what they do in school truly helps them grow! So, be sure to ask how many of your child’s positions the team is recruiting. Then, depending on your athlete’s position, ask about whether or not your child will play all around. For example, if your child a setter will the team play a 5:1 (will play all around) or a 6:2 (may or may not play all around).

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